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Arts at the Confluence: Conversations with Margaret Renkl, Janisse Ray, and Dwight Andrews

September 11 @ 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Join Emory professor Dwight Andrews, winner of the 2022 Pen America Award for the art of the essay Margaret Renkl, and American Book Award winner Janisse Ray for conversations exploring the relationship between the environment, arts and activism. First Congregational Church, September 11, 2022. 2-4 PM. Book Signing to follow. Free.


Margaret Renkl, recipient of the 2022 Pen America Award for the art of the essay, is the author of Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss (2019) illustrated by Billy Renkl and Graceland, at Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache from the American South (2021), Southern Book Prize for Nonfiction. Renkl is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times tackling “climate change, racial justice, and environmental issues from her ‘blue dot’ hometown in a red state,” states PBS NewsHour interviewer Jeffrey Brown.

Growing up in Alabama, Renkl was a devoted reader, an explorer of riverbeds and red-dirt roads. Now living in Nashville, a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Carolina, Renkl writes “to preserve what we’re in love with.” Her work suggests that there is astonishment to be found in common things: in what seems ordinary, in what we all share. Yet, she warns, “We are watching an apocalypse unfold in our own backyards, and it’s alarming, and it’s tragic, and it’s heartbreaking.”

Janisse Ray explores the borderlands of nature and culture. Her first book, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood (1999) was a New York Times Notable, and her recent Wild Spectacle: Seeking Wonders in a World beyond Humans (2021) won the Donald L. Jordan Prize for Literary Excellence. Her nonfiction and eco-poetry have variously won the American Book Award, Pushcart Prize, Southern Book Prize, and Southern Environmental Law Center Writing Award, among others.

As she tells in Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, Ray grew up south Georgia in a “junkyard along U.S. Highway 1.” Thereafter, she earned an MFA from the University of Montana and now lives on an organic farm inland from Savannah. As a naturalist and environmental activist, Ray writes about endangered habitats and species and about humans’ destructive behaviors with empathy and truth to “replace our static hope about climate change with active love for mother earth.”

Dwight Andrews, now Senior Pastor of First Congregational Church and Emory University Professor of Music, grew up in Detroit, Michigan, was introduced to jazz and formed his first band, The Seven Sounds. He earned a BA and MA in Music at the University of Michigan, a Master of Divinity and PhD in Music Theory from Yale. As the Yale Repertory’s resident music director, Andrews composed the original musical scores for most of the August Wilson Broadway productions including Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson and Seven Guitars. He also composed numerous movie and television scores.

At First Congregational Church where the Atlanta Colored Music Festival Association’s inaugural concert was held in 1910, Andrews and Steven Darsey of Meridian Herald, an Atlanta-based organization advancing worship and music traditions, jointly reprised the early twentieth-century concerts through a musical collaboration known as the Atlanta Music Festival to bridge communities and traditions of the past and present.


September 11
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM


First Congregational Church
105 Courtland St NE
Atlanta, GA 30303
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